Latest News About Spousal Maintenance
As of 2019, married couples in the US accounted for less than half of all households. During the same year, divorced women were living in over one in 10 households. On the other hand, male divorces were in just a little over 8% of households.
All in all, the divorce rate in the US remains within the 40% to 50% range. Many of these divorced individuals either pay or receive spousal maintenance.
So, if you and your spouse are getting divorced, the court may require you to continue supporting your ex. The other possibility is that you may be the receiving end of these “awards.” Either way, it’s a huge financial responsibility for the payor.
That’s why it’s best you stay on top of the latest news about spousal maintenance.
Don’t worry, though, as we’ve compiled some of the recent changes to such laws. Read on so that you can better prepare your finances during and after your divorce.
What Is Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance also goes by the terms “alimony” or “spousal support.” It’s a legal obligation imposed by family courts following a divorce. The court awards it to the lower-earning or non-working former spouse.
Spousal maintenance payments, in turn, come from the higher-earning ex-spouse. The divorcee with a more significant income usually makes alimony payments each month. However, family courts permit lump-sum payments to the receiving ex-spouse.
Spousal support isn’t mandatory for all divorced couples. For instance, you may not have to pay for it if your ex-spouse makes the same amount of income as you do.
Recent Changes to Spousal Support Laws
For decades, spousal support in the US was a tax-deductible item. Spouses who received alimony payments also had to report this as part of their income.
However, all these changed when the new tax laws came into effect on January 01, 2019. This applies to any divorce agreements executed after December 31, 2018.
No Longer Tax-Deductible for the Payors
In this case, a former spouse ordered to pay alimony can no longer include the payments as a tax deduction. So, if your divorce took place in 2019 or 2020, your alimony payments are now non-deductible. Under the new law, your spousal support liabilities are now “personal” expenses.
The new law may also affect some cases of divorce agreements modified after December 31, 2018. An example is if you’ll alter the agreement and it changes the terms of your spousal support.
Suppose that you got divorced in 2015 and have been paying alimony since then. However, something occurred, and you now have to change part of the payment agreements. The new law may apply in your case, so your alimony payments may already be non-tax-deductible.
No Longer Declarable as Income
For the longest time, ex-spouses who received alimony had to claim it as income, so they also had to pay taxes on it. As of January 01, 2019, spousal support payees no longer have to declare alimony as a taxable income. This is one of the spousal maintenance updates that benefit the receiving party.
The Pandemic’s Impact on Spousal Support
An estimated 17.75 million people in the US had no job as of June 2020. This number includes workers whose employers had to lay them off due to the pandemic. This figure also shows that only a little over half of the entire US population had a job at that time.
The thing is, many of these now-unemployed individuals also pay spousal support.
If you’re one of these folks, you may be able to file for temporary relief through modification. In many cases, it’s difficult to alter spousal support liabilities. One of the few exceptions is if the alimony payor had a significant change in their income.
With that said, you may be able to lower your spousal maintenance payments if you lost your job. However, it’s best to speak to local family lawyers about your options, though. That’s because spousal support alterations vary from state to state.
For starters, some family courts are stricter than others. For example, they may have a higher “cap” as to how much income you’ve lost. Unless you meet the limit, you may have a hard time filing a spousal agreement change.
A local family lawyer can help determine if your situation allows for an adjustment. These legal professionals can also give you insights into your other non-court options. For instance, they can reach out to your ex-spouse to come to a temporary agreement.
Other Changes to Consider
In some states, like Massachusetts, former spouses can file for “early” alimony termination. One situation in which they can do this is if their former spouse now cohabitates with another.
Suppose your ex-spouse moved in with another partner during the lockdown. Your former spouse may have chosen to do so in the hopes of also reducing their living costs. Let’s also say that your ex has been living with another partner for three continuous months.
In the example above, you may be able to file for an alimony termination. At the very least, you may be able to request a suspension or a reduction in your obligations. After all, your former spouse already has a partner who may be helping them with their expenses, too.
Find Financial Relief From or With Spousal Support
If you’re the one who needs to pay spousal maintenance, you may qualify for temporary relief. If you’re the one who receives support, be sure your former spouse meets their obligation.
In either case, it’s best you hire a family lawyer who can help you navigate the complex world of alimony. This is especially important if you’ve experienced a major life change, such as a job loss.
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